Reader input- Your experience of dissociation and trauma responses.

I wanted people’s input. I am going to make up some ” emotion cards” to use in therapy to describe what I am feeling when I am dissociated or unable to speak.

Sienna brought in some emotion cards on Monday to help me communicate what I was feeling but because they were for children, they were fairly basic emotions and didn’t really cover what I was feeling or wanting to say.

So I said ” I wish there were cards for dissociated people. Maybe I should make some.”

And Sienna thought it was a fabulous idea and really encouraged me to make some.

So now I am going to put it over to my dissociative readers or those with complex trauma to describe how they feel in therapy. I have two simple questions and I’d love to hear everyone else’s experiences.

I am looking for describing words rather than just emotions or feelings although those will be helpful too.


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48 thoughts on “Reader input- Your experience of dissociation and trauma responses.

  1. Laura says:

    This is a great idea. Although when I dissociate I’m not even able to move to show a card, so it wouldn’t work for me! Off the top of my head, here are a few words associated with my experience; distant, lost, alone, terrified, overwhelmed, trapped, frozen, paralysed.

    Have you seen the PODS website? They have lots of educational material around dissociation that you might find useful.


    • Sirena says:

      Yeah I freeze too. But in that instance perhaps my therapist could show me that cards and I could manage a nod of the head or something.
      Great words thanks! And I’ll check out PODS. X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. amber (maybe) says:

    Really interesting question and I’ll be fascinated to read more answers as they come – a few for how I feel in therapy when we go deep:

    Floating. Young. Far away. Lost. Heavy. Dead. Terrified. Sick/nauseous. Alone. Disconnected (I mean, COMPLETELY disconnected from life, reality, definitely from Tom. Like I am the only thing that exists. Not sure if there is a better word for that?)

    Can’t wait to see your finished outcome Sirena! We will all be using these cards soon enough 😉 x

    Liked by 1 person

      • amber (maybe) says:

        Hehehe yeas. Also you’re super creative with your artwork so you could make them look awesome… just saying… 🙊 the thing that really fascinates me is the dead feeling. I notice others say it here and more generally in blog posts. I think feelings of death and annihilation are related to failure to attach which makes sense. But interesting (/sad and terrifying) that we seem to relive those primal sensations in the therapy room. X


  3. reaganwangry says:

    Great idea Sirena.. Here are a few words I can think of. Ping-pong ball, cacophony, disoriented, frozen, quicksand, floaty, electric (buzzy), pressure cooker, caged animal, dead, cold, numb, lost, confused, blurry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. individualmedley17 says:

    Sometimes I disappear to a bright white room in my head where nothing exists, other times I am in the room but I can’t understand what my therapist is saying, like she is speaking a foreign language that I don’t know .
    My body can feel trapped and I can’t breathe, or shaky and dizzy, like I wouldn’t be able to support my own weight if I tried to move.
    Sorry if not what you’re after. IM x

    Liked by 1 person

      • individualmedley17 says:

        I think I would be able to point to a card (and would welcome that opportunity) when I can’t understand her words, or when I can’t breathe, or when I am shaking. But when I disappear to the white room I’m not aware of anything else, it’s like I’m in a different (and empty) universe.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. CD says:

    Great idea!

    dizzy, numb, floaty, spacey, blank, non-existant, distant (i feel distant physically and emotionally), fuzzy, foggy, detached, shaky, frozen, bombarded/overwhelmed (maybe that is pre dissociation or when too many parts are active).

    Liked by 1 person

      • CD says:

        I was thinking mainly dissociation. I somehow completely missed the therapy in general. I tend to get really anxious (then dissociate) – teary, on edge, ready to run, feel like i want to pull my hair out, feel like i’ve imploded (inside is pure chaos and there are shards of glass all over and there is no order), the room starts spinning, get hot (blood pressure spike), itchy, my eyes twitch/water, dazed… i think i could go on and on. I wouldn’t say these happen every session but a few times a months at the very least.

        funny with all of this internal stuff – i’m normally sitting there stone faced and quiet. we are working hard right now on this. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sirena says:

        I’m the same. Sitting holding a conversation or just still if it’s really bad but all that other stuff going on underneath. Crazy how we can do that isn’t It?


  6. Lina says:

    This has been helpful to read what others have said because i often can only identify or say “shut down”. It’s as though I’m a computer and someone hits the off button.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This.shaking says:

    I get pins and needles; I get completely nauseatingly dizzy; I shake, sometimes so hard I nearly fall off the couch; I lose my hearing – so I can see T’s mouth moving but actually cannot hear a thing; I feel like I’m about to throw up (and tell T – then I don’t actually throw up, just hang over the garbage bin, whew!) plus most of the things others have mentioned, wow.
    Thanks, Sirena. TS

    Liked by 1 person

  8. skinnyhobbit says:

    I don’t have DID, OSDD, and I’m not even sure if I’m fragmented, or even a trauma survivor (though my therapist thinks I am as I flip between “modes” easily… Modes are what different self states are called in schema therapy. It sees dissociated parts / different alters as modes too, which I feel is too simplistic).

    Me, I feel completely emotionally numb. Like my emotions all disappeared and I’m just a hollow clanking robot. It’s not the pain of “emptiness” either, just literally feeling “nothing” with no access to any emotion. I call it “I feel like a robot” and T says I’m “in Detached Protector mode”. I ought to make a feeling card where I draw a robot like the tin man in Wizard of Oz

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Breaking the Cycle says:

    Body: numb, heavy, foreign (I don’t know if you get this but it feels like not my body, like I’m not a part of my own body?)

    Adjectives: avoidant, threatened (I feel unsafe, I must “check out”), indecisive.


    • Sirena says:

      I think that’s de-personalisation that you’re experiencing? I’ve had it only very occasionally, but it’s scary.
      Thanks for the words, they’re great.


  10. ReaderInTherapy says:

    I feel disappeared, like the core of me has gone somewhere outside my body. I feel like an empty shell.

    I hear a whooshing sound, like television static, like a white noise machine. I miss what my therapist is saying and have to ask her to repeat herself.

    I feel a sharp need to appear put together, to appear in control, to keep emotions in check, to appear competent and whole.

    I feel puppeted, like I am not in control of my own body’s movements, or my speech, like somebody is doing those things for me. I’ll find myself scowling and have to soften my expression to try and appear in control. I’ll bite my lip and not realize it until it bleeds. I’ll pick at my fingernails until something hurts.

    My eyes flit back and forth and all around the room. I can’t keep focus on any one thing, let alone make eye contact.

    My mind is flashing with images, memories, inventions, scraps of television. Like someone is changing the channel at lightning speed in my head.

    My breath quickens and gets shallow.


  11. LB says:

    I often go so far away that I don’t know where I’ve been. It feels like a different dimension altogether. And if things get too painful or overwhelming I can drop away into a spot on the carpet or a stain on the wall. Any little thing at all and I can be gone in mere moments.

    Here are some other descriptions that come to mind:

    a warm floating as my body dissolves
    absence of sound
    zipped inside of my own body
    a spreading dullness that leaves me mute
    loss of fear (A feeling that someone could come into our space with a machine gun and I would feel absolutely nothing.)


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